Online Shopping in Canada is “Surging”

The industry has been quick to blame eCommerce for the closing of brick & mortar (offline) stores, but in reality that view is grossly over-simplified. It would be more accurate to say the demise of some retail stores has been due to their ineffective use on the Internet, crippling their ability to remain competitive in a retail environment that is in a perpetual state of change. In truth, fully omni-channel stores have an edge over both online-only and offline-only stores. Today’s Canadian consumer wants it all.

That said, it’s certainly true that online shopping has increased in Canada. According to a recent Angus Reid poll, only 7% of Canadians say they’ve never made a purchase online. 37% shop eCommerce at least monthly. 75% of those that do shop online said they spend up to $200 per month, and 10% claim they spend up to $500 each month!

  • 1% of Canadians surveyed said they shop online once per day
  • 4% shop online several times each week
  • 6% purchase online weekly
  • 19% make a purchase on the Internet several times per month
  • 18% shop online monthly
  • 37% purchase online a few times per year
  • 3% go online to buy something once a year
  • 6% shop online less than once per year
  • 7% have never shopped online

“By nearly any measure – number of shoppers, number of purchases, amount spent, growth in retailers’ profits – Canada’s digital commerce sector is surging,” states the Angus Reid report.

What is your overall approach to buying non-food items?

Shoppers have several reasons to opt for online shopping, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they prefer it. However, when the Angus Reid survey made the distinction between typical behaviour and preference, the results were almost the same. Case in point, 28% of Canadians browse & buy online. If given a choice between buying online or in a physical store (brick & mortar), 26% say they would choose to shop online. Behaviour and preference numbers remained close, regardless of the age group surveyed.

  • Age 18-24: 29% typically browse and buy online. 36% would choose to shop online over shopping in a physical store.
  • Age 25-34: 40% typically browse and buy online. 38% would choose to shop online over shopping in a physical store.
  • Age 35-44: 37% typically browse and buy online. 30% would choose to shop online over shopping in a physical store.
  • Age 45-54: 23% typically browse and buy online. 23% would choose to shop online over shopping in a physical store.
  • Age 55-64: 22% typically browse and buy online. 20% would choose to shop online over shopping in a physical store.
  • Age 65+: 17% typically browse and buy online. 16% would choose to shop online over shopping in a physical store.

They put their money where their mouse is too. Those who most prefer to shop for specific items online, actually do so frequently.

Canadians expect to significantly increase their online shopping in coming years. In this survey, they were asked what percentage of their total purchases they expect to buy online in the future. Half of respondents expect eCommerce to grab 11-50% of their purchases. 19% say they’ll do more than half of their shopping online.

What do Canadians Buy Online?

  1. 60% of Canadians prefer to buy their entertainment products online, including music, books, movies and video games.
  2. 33% prefer to shop for electronic devices online, such as smartphones and computers.
  3. 18% prefer to buy clothing and accessories online.
  4. 18% prefer to buy appliances and tools on eCommerce websites.
  5. 5% prefer to buy groceries online.

Interestingly, these preferences aren’t reflected in overall online shopping statistics. For example, clothing is the most popular online purchase in this country, according to a recent CIRA study and a Canada Post survey. That doesn’t necessarily mean the consumer hasn’t checked out the item in-store before ordering online though. The lines get blurred by omni-channel initiatives as well.

As indicated above, younger shoppers prefer to buy online in every category. Canadian consumers over the age of 45 bring the numbers down. For example, 47% of Canadians age 25-34 prefer to buy their electronic devices online (compared to 33% overall), and twice as many of that age group prefers to buy groceries online. While those 18-24 are active online shoppers, most do not yet have a level of income that allows them to do much shopping of any kind.

Security Remains a Top Canadian Concern

Obviously, we’re comfortable with shopping online, but the security of our personal data remains a concern. We’ve thrown up our hands and grudgingly accepted that we have little control over our data used in marketing. Consumers remain largely unaware of privacy options available to them, such as privacy features available in most browser software.

“A slim majority of respondents said they were comfortable with giving out basic information such as a name and email address to set up an account with an online retailer,” reported CBC. “But anything more — including collecting data about shopping habits in order to offer discounts, or to promote specific products to you — made them uncomfortable.”

88% believe online businesses should be more transparent about the data they collect. If they aren’t, shoppers feel the government should regulate its collection and use.

Additionally, Canadians trust websites more if they are hosted in Canada. A 2017 CIRA study found that 76% of Canadians are more concerned about their personal data if it’s stored in the United States. Concerns include a lack of protection from the Canadian Constitution, international agency access, and even the absence of net neutrility. Have a look at our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business for more information.

The State of eCommerce in Canada

VL Omni recently published their annual infographic (below) that provides a snapshot of both the current state of eCommerce in Canada, and what the future holds for eCommerce in this country. The information they’ve compiled shows significant growth and potential.

Highlights include:

  • In 2017, Canadian businesses sold $136 billion in goods and services online, up 42% year over year.
  • 62% of Canadians who shop internationally online would rather shop domestically.
  • 95% of small business owners bought items for their business online.
  • 23.5% facilitate ‘click & collect’ and 68.9% allow in-store returns of online purchases.
  • Canadian businesses also sell through online marketplaces. Most commonly, Amazon, Walmart and eBay.
  • Canadian retail businesses have shown a strong preference for Canada’s Shopify eCommerce software. In fact, 25% choose this platform. The most common reasons given for this preference are ease of use, comprehensive functionality and endless options (including marketplace and social selling).

Canadian eCommerce Infographic

Comment on Canadians Internet BusinessHave your Canadian eCommerce sales grown in the past year? Please share your experience or questions in the comments below.

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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on, and, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Ron harden

This is a good insight for online shopping. A good shopping assistant would also help.

roy smith

online shopping in canada is really easy ussually i bought thigs from knixwear , marks , amazon , ebay